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Types of prostate cancer

This page tells you about the types of prostate cancer. You can read about

 

A quick guide to what’s on this page

Your doctor will tell the type of prostate cancer you have by taking samples of cells from the prostate during a biopsy. A pathologist examines the cells in the laboratory under a microscope. The cells look different, depending on the type of cancer you have.

More than 9 out of 10 prostate cancers are a type called acinar adenocarcinomas. This is pronounced ass-in-ar ad-en-oh-car-sin-oh-ma. This type of cancer starts from gland cells in the prostate.

Other types of prostate cancer include the following

  • Ductal adenocarcinoma
  • Transitional cell (urothelial) cancer
  • Squamous cell cancer
  • Carcinoid  
  • Small cell cancer
  • Sarcomas and sarcomatoid cancer

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the About prostate cancer section.

 

 

Diagnosing the type of prostate cancer

Your doctor will find the type of prostate cancer you have by taking samples of cells from your prostate during a biopsy. A pathologist examines the cells in the laboratory under a microscope. The cells look different, depending on the type of cancer you have.

 

The most common type of prostate cancer

More than 9 out of 10 prostate cancers (90%) are a type called acinar adenocarcinoma (pronounced ass-in-ar ad-en-oh-car-sin-oh-ma). So nearly everyone diagnosed with prostate cancer has this type. It starts from gland cells in the prostate. 

Many of these cancers grow extremely slowly and are not likely to spread. But some can grow more quickly. All the treatment information in this section is for acinar adenocarcinoma of the prostate.

There are other types of adenocarcinoma, which include atrophic, foamy, colloid and signet ring carcinoma. They are all treated in the same way as acinar adenocarcinoma. So if you are told you have any of these types, all the information in our prostate cancer section will still apply to you.

 

Rare types of prostate cancer

The remaining 1 in 10 prostate cancers include the following types

Because these cancers are so rare, there is sometimes very little information about which treatments work best. Where information about the treatment is available we have included this. We have information about all the treatments for prostate cancer in the next section.

Ductal adenocarcinoma

This type of prostate cancer starts in the cells that line the ducts (tubes) of the prostate gland. It tends to grow and spread more quickly than acinar adenocarcinoma. So some men have an advanced prostate cancer when they are diagnosed.

You are most likely to have surgery to remove the prostate. This type of cancer is less sensitive to hormone therapy than acinar adencarcinoma. So you may have chemotherapy after surgery.

Transitional cell (urothelial cancer)

This type of prostate cancer starts in the cells that line the tube carrying urine – the urethra. The urethra passes through the prostate to carry urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. More commonly, this type of cancer may start in the bladder and spread into the prostate.

Transitional cell cancer of the prostate may spread into the bladder entrance and into nearby tissues. You are most likely to have surgery to remove your prostate and bladder. If you can’t have surgery for any reason, you are most likely to have chemotherapy.

Squamous cell cancer

Squamous cell prostate cancer starts from the flat cells covering the prostate gland. These are called squamous cells (pronounced sk-way-mus).

Squamous cell prostate cancer tends to grow and spread more quickly than adenocarcinoma of the prostate. So some men have an advanced prostate cancer when they are diagnosed. Doctors use the same treatments as for acinar adenocarcinoma but they may not work so well for this type of prostate cancer.

Carcinoid of the prostate 

Carcinoid tumours start from cells of the neuroendocrine system, which is made up of specialised nerve and gland cells. These tumours are very rare and seem to be slowly growing. They may not cause any symptoms for many years and your doctor may recommend monitoring the cancer. But some of these tumours may grow more quickly and your doctor may then recommend surgery to remove the prostate.

Small cell cancer

This is a type of neuroendocrine tumour and is made up of small round cells. If you have this type of prostate cancer, you may not have a raised PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. So it is more difficult to pick up early and many men are diagnosed when it is already advanced.

Small cell prostate cancer tends to grow and spread more quickly than adenocarcinoma of the prostate. Hormone therapy does not work for this type of prostate cancer so you are more likely to have chemotherapy. We have detailed information about small cell prostate cancer and its treatment

Sarcoma and sarcomatoid cancer

Sarcomas start from muscle cells. They often grow quite quickly. The most common type of prostate sarcoma in adults is leiomyosarcoma. It tends to occur in men between the ages of 35 and 60.

Sarcomatoid cancers have a mixture of sarcoma and adenocarcinoma cells.

With these types of prostate cancer, you are most likely to have surgery to completely remove your prostate gland. After surgery, you may have radiotherapy to the prostate or chemotherapy.

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Updated: 20 February 2014